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Meet The Model Who Changed How Instagram Censors Plus-Size Women

Photo: Alexandra Cameron
The Model Who Changed How Instagram Censors Plus-Size Women

Nyome Nicholas-Williams is reshaping how plus-size women are censored online and we’re here for it. 

After her content was repeatedly blocked and deleted by Instagram, the #IwanttoseeNyome campaign prompted the social media giant to reevaluate how its algorithm treats women’s bodies. 

The campaign grew after a photo shoot in August 2020. Nicholas-Williams and photographer Alexandra Cameron uploaded the now-infamous shot to their Instagram profiles and received a glowing response from legions of followers who felt empowered by Nicholas-Williams’ body-confidence. 

However, within hours Instagram deleted the image and warned Nicholas-Williams that her account could be removed if she continued to share similar photos. 

Unfair censorship is something many plus-size women are familiar with on social media, particularly for women of color. 

Similar occurrences prompted Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri to announce in June 2020 that the site would be, “Looking at the ways our policies, tools, and processes impact Black people and other underrepresented groups on Instagram.”

But 2 months and several deleted Instagram’s later, it was clear there was a discrepancy between what Instagram was saying and what they were actually doing. 

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The photo in question shows Nicholas-Williams’ topless but completely covering her breasts. She was wearing shorts and not posing in a way that was overtly sexual or offensive. 

Cameron, the photographer behind the now-viral image noted that she had shared plenty of even more revealing shots of slim white women and was never penalized. 

We spoke exclusively to Anna-Thea, a Divine Feminine educator who specializes in aiding women who are struggling with self-love issues, about the ways in which societal standards of beauty infringe on women's self-worth. 

"What Alexandra Cameron captured in this stunning photograph of Nyome Nicholas-Williams was authentic divine feminine power and self-love" Anna-Thea tells us, "I find it odd, deeply concerning, and also extremely sad that an obviously beautiful and self-empowering picture of a woman that doesn’t fit society's norm or racial standards of “beauty” was censored and taken down."

When Gina Martin, an activist who previously fought to successfully ban nonconsensual upskirt photography, got involved she encouraged others to repost the image in protest of Instagram’s guidelines. All images were quickly taken down but public frustration grew. 

What was supposed to be a shoot to encourage self-confidence had now become a prime example of how marginalized body types consistently have their self-worth undermined by oppressive forces. 

Nicholas-Williams had struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager and Instagram’s biased rules were a hurtful reminder of the kind of judgment society makes on the bodies of women. 

As the #IwanttoseeNyome campaign gained momentum, Adam Mosseri set up a phone call with Nicholas-Williams to apologize and explain the censorship. 

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She was told Instagram prohibits the grabbing or squeezing of breasts in a sexual manner. But since plus-size women have larger breasts, their content is often unfairly labeled as sexually explicit even though they're simply covering up all the necessary parts.

Anna-Thea also spoke to how misunderstood female sexuality is in mainstream media, "I can’t help but think about the lack of consciousness that exists around sexuality, the body as sacred, and all beings no matter what race as sacred. And how the lack of sacredness of the female body has affected women’s confidence. "

She probed some of the questions many of Nyome's supporters also raised during the campaign, "What does a black woman or woman of color who is quite round bring up for social media decisions makers? Maybe their own sexual shame and taboo sexual feelings. Maybe seeing a black woman or woman of color in her power is threatening?"

The discussion with Instagram was a small victory as Nicholas-Williams had successfully prompted Instagram to own up to its faults but what came next was an even bigger win for plus-size women. Instagram announced an algorithm update that would address some of this censorship bias and has continued to work with Nicholas-Williams to make the platform a more inviting space for all body types. 

Nicholas-Williams’s test of the new update was another beautiful shot taken by Cameron showing off her body and her confidence. All the same guidelines were followed as the first image but this time, thanks to a meaningful apology and reformed censorship by the platform, the image was not deleted. 

For Anna-Thea, and many other women, this victory was a sign of overdue change in the ways in which we view the female body.

"Nyome and your photographer Alexandra I want to commend you for shining your light and depicting so beautifully the true, authentic power of the feminine," Anna-Thea says, "Just seeing the picture opens new doors for many women. Thank you!"

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.